Science in Action!
Who? Tatiana H.
Where? Readington, NJ
Pollinator? Mason Bees
Pollinators are a crucial global ecosystem service and are estimated to provide hundreds of billions of US dollars in foodstuffs annually. The honeybee and humanity have had a complex relationship with each other; with the honeybee being domesticated potentially as early as 7000BC, and European colonists bringing honeybee colonies with them to the new world as early as the 1620s. Protecting native and non-native bees alike is of the utmost importance, and populations must be preserved.
The Pollinator-Action Journey
In the September of 2020, Tatiana began constructing a honeybee hive box that was established at the Readington Community Garden, along with a honeybee colony. Readington Township covers more than 48 square miles, being the largest township in the county, covering almost 11% of the county’s area. More than 8,000 acres of land have been preserved from development; a perfect opportunity to introduce more pollinators into the ecosystem. The hive will increase the garden’s productivity and provide a great educational experience for students, scouts, community residents, and nature enthusiasts. Not only has Tatiana established a new colony, but she visits her bees weekly to hone her beekeeping skills.
In her words:
“In collaboration with the Readington Open Space Advisory and Museum Board, the members were able to support me on this journey for the community. You might or might not be familiar with honeybees, but they are not the same as mason bees. For starters, mason bees don’t make honey. But they have effective pollination skills. Approximately 250-300 females can pollinate an entire acre of apples or cherries – and are often claimed as being more efficient than honey bees, having a 95% efficiency rate. Of the 150 mason bee species, most of them are native to North America and occur naturally all over geographic regions. It is very likely to spot mason bees in your backyard during the spring. They are tunnel-nesting, solitary bees, meaning that, unlike the social honeybee, every female is her own “queen” who lays eggs and raises offspring without any support from a hive of workers. They are non-aggressive and rarely sting. These bees lay their eggs inside existing tunnels, such as those left by wood-boring beetles or the hollow stems of pithy plants. Luckily, mason bees also nest in man-made tunnels. A typical man-made Mason Bee House consists of bamboo/cardboard tubes that provide a place for mason bees to reproduce and gather pollen and nectar for their young.
Mason bee homes were distributed on local Readington trails, such as Holland Brook Headwaters, Corn Huskers Park, and Bouman Stickney Museum. My aim with the houses is to attract and welcome more native bees into the Readington environment, pollinating more than 8,000 acres of land, while providing the pollinators a place to nest. In total, I built and constructed 12 masonry bee houses from local citizen’s donated wood. Four of the larger houses are established throughout the land of Bouman Stickney. Eight of the smaller ones were vibrantly painted and decorated by my troop (Troop 80927) during an initial meeting I planned, and then distributed on trails. To upkeep the hives, once a year (after a new generation of mason bees emerges from their cell), I will replace bamboo and masonry bee cardboard tubes; cleaning out the holes to ensure no growing mold or fungus.
Mason bees are not as commonly known as honeybees, yet, like all bees, they are important figures when it comes to our food. My last main component of this journey is education. In April, a local youth girl scout troops got the chance to answer the question “Why do bees matter?”. Through interactive learning about the importance of bees, while applying their knowledge into action, they (girl scout troop) created sustainable- recyclable mason bee houses. My troop, while decorating the hives, also got the opportunity to learn about pollinators. As a result of some of my successes, I plan on [participating in] World Bee Day, May 20th, to host a virtual local troop unit event in order to celebrate our friends! To educate citizens and the public world around us, article submissions related to pollinator awareness and taking action are to be featured in Readington News and Vogue Czechoslovakia during May. Future aspirations for this project include educating my district’s elementary students through science curriculum pollinator workshops and creating a guide to pollinator awareness that will be distributed in local libraries. My project started out simple, but then kept growing as I tried to imagine a world without bees. Pollinators. Food.”
Tatiana has become quite the “busy bee” protecting pollinators, but her activism doesn’t end here. Tatiana has her own blog, beeinspiredhoney.org. Her blog includes education and ways one can help protect pollinators. We also recommend checking out her website Bee The Change Boutique (creator-spring.com) and her Teespring Shop to purchase Environmental/Pollinator Awareness Products, all of which are created by other concerned youth. All profits will go towards continuing to sustain Tatiana’s projects and educating communities.